We’re heading toward the midpoint of the season, and the tight end position has been a headscratcher just like we all knew it would be. This week, we get back some heavy hitters, but we lose a few that are always ranked near the top. As always, we’re relying on matchups, targets, and red-zone usage to find some sleepers and sort out the middle part of our Week 9 fantasy TE rankings.
The studs back this week are Darren Waller (@ Giants), Mark Andrews (vs. Vikings), and possibly George Kittle (vs. Cardinals). When bye weeks give, they also take — in the form of Rob Gronkowski, T.J. Hockenson, and Ricky Seals-Jones.
Studs Dalton Schultz (vs. Broncos) and Kyle Pitts (@ Saints) are set to face top-10 defenses against TEs, but Schultz’s body of work this season suggests he should be started, at least in PPR. Pitts is well on his way to joining the elite, “must-start” tier at tight end, though as we saw last week, he is prone to some clunkers like most TEs not named Travis Kelce.
Streamers with high upside in favorable matchups this week include Tyler Conklin (@ Ravens), Marcedes Lewis (@ Chiefs), Mo Alie-Cox (vs. Jets), and C.J. Uzomah (@ Browns). All these guys are most attractive in standard leagues, whether it be because of their big-play potential or their respective noses for the end zone. The Ravens, Chiefs, and Jets defenses are all in the top eight in fantasy points per game allowed to tight ends. It might seem tough to trust Lewis, but he’ll take the role Robert Tonyan (knee) had as a prime red-zone target.
The Browns are statistically strong against TEs, but their best linebacker is out and they haven’t played against any studs at the position with the exception of Travis Kelce and Noah Fant. The Bengals’ offense is rolling, so we still like Uzomah’s upside.
Worrisome players on the start-or-sit bubble are Dan Arnold (vs. Bills) and Jonnu Smith (vs. Panthers). Both have provided at least a little production in certain spots this season, but the Bills and Panthers have been strong units against tight ends. Only slightly ahead of them is Tyler Higbee (vs. Titans), who seemingly disappoints consistently despite favorable matchups. There are plenty of options to consider this week, so these guys should be the next wave of consideration in deep leagues.
The tight end position as a whole got a net gain even as we lose RSJ, Hockenson, and Gronkowski, but Andrews and Waller owners rejoice. Barring surprises, those owners won’t really need to check these rankings ever again, though we hope you will.
Note: We’ll be updating these TE rankings throughout the week, so check back for the latest player movement and analysis.
Fantasy TE Rankings Week 9: Who to start at tight end
Rankings based on standard, non-PPR scoring
|1||Travis Kelce, KC vs. GB|
|2||Mike Gesicki, MIA vs. HOU|
|3||Darren Waller, LV @ NYG|
|4||Mark Andrews, BAL vs. MIN|
|5||Kyle Pitts, ATL @ NO|
|6||Dallas Goedert, PHI vs. LAC|
|7||George Kittle, 49ers vs. ARI|
|8||Hunter Henry, NE @ CAR|
|9||Dalton Schultz, DAL vs. DEN. If Dak Prescott (calf) misses this game against Denver, you can assume Schultz will be moved down a few spots in the rankings. With Cooper Rush at QB, the chemistry just wasn’t there. He caught just two-of-seven targets for 11 yards and surely broke the hearts of many fantasy owners that needed a bit more to win their Week 8 matchups. If Prescott is back under center, Schultz is a fringe must-start guy, as we’ve seen how productive he can be. Denver boasts a top-five defense against fantasy TEs, but this Dallas offense is too good to bring much concern. He also sees a boost in PPR leagues based on his targets numbers this year.|
|10||Zach Ertz, ARI @ SF. Since joining the Cardinals, Ertz has caught seven-of-nine targets for 88 yards and a touchdown. He’s had two productive stat lines for a tight end and will be close to the top-10 in standard leagues each week moving forward. In PPR, his value figures to be a tad higher. However, San Francisco is a top-eight team against fantasy tight ends, allowing only T.J. Hockenson to catch more than three passes against them. For those reasons, Ertz’s ceiling is limited, but we still consider his floor to be safe.|
|11||Tyler Conklin, MIN @ BAL. Travis Kelce, Noah Fant, Darren Waller, C.J. Uzomah, and Noah Fant all caught at least one touchdown against Baltimore’s defense, and it ranks as the worst defense in the league against tight ends. That said, any decent tight end is a top-level streaming option when facing the Ravens. Conklin is averaging just over 5.2 targets per game, and we could see his best performance of the year in this contest.|
|12||Tyler Higbee, LAR vs. TEN. Higbee seemed to be in line for a monster game against Houston, but as we’ve seen many times this year, some pass-catchers are going to suffer when their team blows out its opponent. Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp control the target share, and as long as the opposing team doesn’t put up much of a fight, there might not be enough passing attempts in LA to support Higbee. This Rams-Titans game could go a number of ways. If it’s a shootout-style game, Higbee should have plenty of opportunities. If the Titans, who just lost Derrick Henry (foot) for six-to-10 weeks struggle on offense, it could be another quiet day. That said, he’s a boom-or-bust play once again — especially if he’s matched up with Kevin Byard on a regular basis.|
|13||Evan Engram, NYG vs. LV. Engram has drawn five or more targets in five-of-six games played this year, so naturally, he’s somewhat attractive in PPR leagues. If Kenny Golladay (knee), Kadarius Toney (ankle), and Sterling Shepard (hamstring) all play, it could be tough for Engram to draw targets. However, he should have an easier time getting open. So, while his volume might drop, his efficiency should take a step up. This would lead to a transition from being more attractive in PPR to being a better play in standard. Las Vegas gives up the seventh-most fantasy points to tight ends per game, so we like Engram as a streamer. It’s worth noting his ceiling isn’t all that high anymore, but he does have somewhat of a decent floor.|
|14||Pat Freiermuth, PIT vs. CHI. No one in the Steelers offense took advantage of JuJu Smith-Schuster’s season-ending shoulder injury more than Freiermuth. He’s being used in the slot often and has caught 11-of-14 targets for 102 yards and a touchdown since JuJu has been sidelined. We love his season-long outlook in PPR leagues, but he’s a valuable standard league piece, too, given the scarcity of production at the position. Chicago is a strong defense against fantasy TEs (second-fewest points allowed), but he draws streaming consideration based on his usage over the past few weeks. As matchups get more favorable, he might be a TE1 down the line.|
|15||Mo Alie-Cox, IND vs. NYJ. New York is a bottom-10 team against fantasy TEs, but let’s face it, Alie-Cox is a touchdown-or-bust guy. New York has given up three touchdowns to the position in seven games, so there is a chance that happens. Just know nothing is guaranteed and his floor is a big fat zero in the scoring column, as we saw last week against Tennessee.|
|16||C.J. Uzomah, CIN vs. CLE. We’ve seen Uzomah’s ceiling is sky high, but like Alie-Cox, touchdowns are his saving grace. This feels like a game where Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins are heavily featured while Uzomah takes the back seat. Cleveland is a middle-of-the-pack team against TEs, and Uzomah has really only feasted on two of the most TE-friendly matchups in the league (Jacksonville, Baltimore).|
|17||Albert Okwuegbunam, DEN @ DAL|
|18||Marcedes Lewis, GB @ KC. Lewis has a similar fantasy outlook as Robert Tonyan Jr. — touchdown-or-bust. Kansas City definitely presents the opportunity for him to reach paydirt, though.|
|19||Jared Cook, LAC @ PHI|
|20||Jonnu Smith, NE @ CAR|
|21||Dan Arnold, JAX vs. BUF|
|22||Cole Kmet, CHI @ PIT|
|23||Jack Doyle, IND vs. NYJ|
|24||Tommy Sweeney, BUF @ JAX|
|25||David Njoku, CLE @ CIN|
|26||Tommy Tremble, CAR vs. NE|
|27||Austin Hooper, CLE @ CIN|
|28||Tyler Kroft, NYJ @ IND|
|29||Jordan Akins, HOU @ MIA|
|30||Hayden Hurst, ATL @ NO|
|31||Geoff Swaim TEN @ LAR|
|32||Adam Trautman, NO vs. ATL|
|33||Eric Ebron, PIT vs. CHI|
|34||Juwan Johnson, NO vs. ATL|
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